The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Youth and Young Adults (OYYA), also known as Anthem, is re-envisioning its future direction with input from a task force of local and national leaders.
The goal is to propose a new vision for youth ministry and outreach to young adults to Archbishop Nelson Perez by Aug. 1.
Several factors contributed to the new undertaking, according to Father Stephen DeLacy, the archbishop’s delegate to youth and young adult ministry.
The new archbishop saw a need to re-envision the office’s direction shortly after his appointment to Philadelphia. Other contributing factors were Pope Francis’ document on ministry to young people published last year after the global Synod of Bishops on youth, Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive), as well as public confusion about the office’s role.
In addition, changing demographics and increasing ethnic diversity in the Philadelphia region “make this just a great time to come together and re-envision” the mission and future undertakings of Anthem/OYYA, said Father DeLacy.
As the archbishop’s delegate, one of his main duties is to head the newly formed task force that includes youth and young adult leaders from across the archdiocese, both urban and suburban, as well as archdiocesan leaders representing the Office for Persons with Disabilities, the Office of Black Catholics and the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs.
Members also represent the laity, religious orders and the diocesan priesthood.
Contributing national leaders hail from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) and the Culture Project International.
“The archbishop is very clear: He doesn’t have a vision for this office. The faithful, our pastors and their parish staffs, have the vision for the office,” said Ann Menna, the supervisor of Anthem/OYYA and also the deputy secretary for the archdiocesan Office of Catechetical Formation.
“So in other words, the folks that are out in the field — our youth ministers, the young adult leadership — they’re the ones who have to inform us what the needs are on the ground level,” Menna said.
The task force certainly hasn’t wasted any time. In about two weeks, the group sent surveys to pastors and youth and young adult leaders, completed a SWOT analysis (identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for the office and began processing Christus Vivit, according to Menna.
Having already met twice via Zoom, the task force plans to meet twice more before the Aug. 1 deadline, although more meetings could be scheduled.
The proposal deadline will allow Anthem/OYYA to share the new vision with youth and young adult leaders in August, when many are planning activities for the upcoming school year, according to Father DeLacy.
Within the task force 11 leaders are at-large members and nine are consultants who are national and local leaders, including the Anthem/OYYA staff, who will help articulate the new vision.
At-large members hold voting privileges and are exclusively from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. They ultimately will present the new vision to the archbishop.
“Archbishop Perez has been incredibly present to this process (and) amazingly generous with his time,” said Father DeLacy. “He’s got a tremendous passion for youth and young adult ministry and wants to ensure that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has the best and most robust youth and young adult ministry that we can possibly have.”
In late May, Menna and Father DeLacy assumed their respective roles as Anthem/OYYA’s supervisor and the archbishop’s delegate to youth and young adult ministry.
Menna describes her responsibility as “day-to-day” and “temporal,” while Father DeLacy handles the visionary and “pastoral needs.”
They work closely together because it is impossible to conduct the daily operations without the visionary foundation, said Menna.
Her work as the deputy secretary for the Office of Catechetical Formation flows well into her work with Anthem/OYYA, roles she doesn’t view as a job but rather a call.
Father DeLacy also still holds his role as director of the Vocation Office for the Diocesan Priesthood, which he says fits “hand in glove” with his role as the archbishop’s delegate.
Working with the task force provided him with a great opportunity to process Christus Vivit, which he encourages everyone to read.
While possible fruits of this re-envisioning process are still unfolding, one benefit, according to Father DeLacy, is discussions about how to do ministry in the current and post-COVID-19 world, while gaining insight from national leaders.
Paul Jarzembowski, the USCCB’s assistant director for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, is a consultant for the Anthem/OYYA taskforce.
Father DeLacy and Menna recalled Jarzembowski saying every diocese should engage in the same re-envisioning process as Anthem/OYYA every five to six years.
Most likely, “the strongest indicator of the future health of the church” is how dynamic the current youth and young adult ministry is, Father DeLacy said.
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